Firm shuts off ditch without telling users beforehand
Tempers of some Pear Park residents have been boiling over in the past two weeks after irrigation water unexpectedly was turned off and summer temperatures scorched their lawns and gardens.
One hundred-nineteen shares of irrigation water that was halted for about 400 homes north of D Road and east of 30 Road is expected to be restored this morning.
Finding the cause and reason of the shutoff took a little legwork by Dave Fletcher, who voluntarily acts as a ditch rider for the area.
“We were all without water between us and the canal on the north side of E Road,” Fletcher said. “If this were 50 or 100 years ago, somebody would be shot over this.”
Workers in the Cimarron East subdivision owned by Great New Homes, which has 10 shares of water, didn’t inform any other water users before halting the water, Fletcher said. A company called Sunbelt Environmental Corporation pays the irrigation fees for the houses on Morning Dove Street. Workers apparently capped the water line in an attempt to clean silt from irrigation lines as the lines had not been used for irrigating since the homes were built in about 2002, Fletcher said.
A person who answered the phone for Great New Homes, which also goes by Great Homes, said she could not comment on the irrigation water issue and promptly hung up the phone. Lane Gunn, who has been acting as head of operations on the project, was contacted by cell phone and refused to comment, also abruptly hanging up the phone.
The shutoff was the longest interruption of irrigation water to lateral users that Phil Bertrand, superintendent of Grand Valley Irrigation Company, has ever seen. The action could have legal consequences if other water users decided to sue in civil court over loss of their water rights, he said. Water law clearly states that water users can’t alter the course of irrigation water without a court order or written consent from other water users.
With proper notification, Bertrand said, a shutoff could have been done in a way that affected far fewer users or possibly have been completed during offseason when irrigation water is not flowing.
Bertrand said he was notified Wednesday by a Great New Homes official that the workers had finished the project and the head gate could be reopened.
Bertrand said he heard the news second-hand, and his agency never was notified in advance of a planned water interruption. People trying to find answers about the shutoff were ordered off the properties where the maintenance was being done, he said.
“Why they did it at this time is a red flag,” Bertrand said. “If those all are true rumors, that gives us the thought they were trying to protect their bullying rights.”
Grand Valley Irrigation Company is responsible for water in the canal, but not after it reaches the head gates and flows through pipes and ditches into nearby neighborhoods. Fees for water use are collected through homeowner associations, and the irrigation company is not responsible for recouping the costs to homeowners for any lost water use.
Fletcher said Great New Homes workers capped the water main in a “diverter box” near the intersection of Gunnison Avenue and 30 3/4 Road. That caused water to spill into the drainage ditch. Officials with the Grand Valley Drainage District then noticed water in their ditches and worried about the possibility of flooding if a storm moved in. On July 22, the Grand Valley Irrigation Company got involved and shut off the head gate from the canal. The week before that, approximately 300 residents were without water. Another 100 lost water after the head gate was closed.
Rose Ericson, who lives in the 3000 block of Robin Wood Court, would just like some answers and to see the water that she pays dues for is turned back on. She converted to using city water to keep her plants and yard alive during a hot spell when the mercury rose into the triple digits several days. She’s not looking forward to seeing the bill from using city water.
At least one of her neighbors lost a garden to the incident and many more have been calling around trying to find answers.
“We just want justice to be done,” she said. “They didn’t tell anybody. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.”